Vitiligo is a disease that causes loss of skin color in patches. The discolored areas usually get bigger with time. The condition can affect the skin on any part of the body. It can also affect hair and the inside of the mouth.
Normally, the color of hair and skin is determined by melanin. Vitiligo occurs when cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious.
Symptoms of Vitiligo signs include:
- Patchy loss of skin color, which usually first appears on the hands, face, and areas around body openings and the genitals
- Premature whitening or graying of the hair on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard
- Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth and nose (mucous membranes)
- Vitiligo can start at any age, but usually appears before age 30
Types of Vitiligo
In this type of vitiligo the patches are spread all over the body and are present in the body in a symmetrical pattern.
It is the most common type of vitiligo and can be further categorised into the following types basis the area where depigmentation occurs:
- Generalized: Appears in the form of symmetrical patches on both sides of the body.
- Universal: This is a very rare form of vitiligo which covers up to 80% of the body.
- Focal: Again a rare type of vitiligo in which only a single patch or a few patches appear on the body. In some cases, it can be an early form of generalized vitiligo. It is easier to treat focal vitiligo than generalized vitiligo. It often occurs in young children.
- Acrofacial: Affects the fingers or toes.
- Mucosal: Affects the area around mucous membranes and lips.
In this type the patches are present on one side of the body, and it is the least common type. It occurs at an early age and expands for a few years.
Causes of Vitiligo
Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin — the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes color. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white. It’s unclear exactly what causes these pigment cells to fail or die. It may be related to:
- A disorder of the immune system (autoimmune condition)
- Family history (heredity)
- A trigger event, such as stress, severe sunburn or skin trauma, such as contact with a chemical
The individual affected with vitiligo are at higher risk of developing:
- Social or psychological distress
- Eye problems
Vitiligo signs and symptoms
- Premature whitening and graying of the hair present on the eyelashes , beard and hair.
- Loss of skin colour in patches